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Trip Report: Mt. Rainier | July 2018

by Andrew Powell

On July 15, 2018, Edgeworks’ head guide, Tod Bloxham, 4 guests, and I gathered at the gym to prep gear and drive out to the White River Ranger Station to begin our journey up Mt. Rainier.

Day 1
The forecast was good, if a bit too hot. We knew the sky would be clear and that there would be a lot of sunscreen in the coming 4 days. What we didn’t know, is that the standard Emmons-Winthrop route was rapidly falling apart.

The first day was an approach hike into Glacier Basin. The views of the route and mountain on the way to this camp are phenomenal and it serves as a means to ease into the 10’000ft gain of our trip. We enjoyed each-others company, told stories, and spent the evening generally relaxing and appreciating the views.

Day 2
Day two was allocated for snow skills training and the push to Camp Schurman. After a hearty breakfast and a casual start, we moved up the mountain and dialed in some essential climbing skills, like self-arrest and efficiency in snow travel.

As we continued up the mountain, we began to receive reports from other groups who were on their way out of hazardous conditions on the route, including collapsing snow bridges and at least one crevasse fall that required climber extraction. This news was a bit ominous, but Tod and I remained optimistic. Upon reaching Camp Schurman, the climbing rangers on sight gave us a run down on conditions. The standard route was no good and success would require a much more challenging and steeper route.

Day 3
Due to the daytime heat, we opted to rest and use the day to acclimate before having an early dinner and setting out for a 9pm start toward our objective. This allowed everyone to recuperate their energy reserves, and to mentally prepare for the big day. It also gave us the best possible snow conditions for the climb and descent of Mt. Rainier. We were roped up and ready to climb by 8:40pm and climbed through the night.

Day 4 – The Climb
We started out onto the Emmons Glacier via the standard bridge crossing out of camp. This was straight forward and the crossing over to “The Corridor” at 10,200’ was simple. This is where the reports of hazardous conditions and weak bridges were coming from. The climbing rangers advised us that staying climbers right in the more exposed terrain was the best path, as opposed to the typical “up the middle” path.

Part way up The Corridor, I checked my altimeter and realized that we were going to make it. The team had ample time to rest and everyone was climbing strong. We were moving up the mountain faster than expected while maintaining a sustainable pace.

At the top of The Corridor, the standard route leads climbers right to the “The Alpine Meadow”. The heat of the previous two weeks had obliterated this path, and it was in a right state. The alternate was to head climbers left into a large, steep bowl. This proved straightforward, but steep and icy. The cramponing was excellent, but the grade was unrelenting. For hours, we toiled upward; traversing and climbing slopes that make the standard route look easy. We trended far right at the top of the bowl to cross the final bergschrund, and reached the summit at about 5:30am.

We had climbed through the night, seeing both an amazing sunset and a glorious sunrise on route. The descent took us a fair amount of time, as the slopes were so steep. After some food, rest and packing up camp, we headed out to the parking lot and the Edgeworks van.

The trip was a great success and we are super excited for next season!

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